Ezekiel 11:19 (ESV) … “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh…”
This is God’s word of encouragement to His servant that He would fulfill His promise and spare a remnant of the people. The people in Jerusalem were sure that God would deliver them and give back their land, because the exiles had left the land and were far from Jerusalem and the temple. In ancient days, people believed that each nation had its own gods, and when you left your home country, you left your gods behind. Of course, Jehovah had revealed Himself to Abraham as “possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:22), so the Jewish leaders shouldn’t have had such a narrow view of God. What they said was probably just an excuse for confiscating land that belonged to some of the exiles.
But the Lord made it clear that He had not forsaken the Jews in Babylon, for the “I will” statements in Ezekiel 11:16–20 declare His promises to the exiles. First, God Himself would be to them “a sanctuary for a little while” during their captivity. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Ps. 90:1, nkjv). The self-confident Jews in Jerusalem thought they were secure as long as they had the temple, but the true temple was with the exiles in Babylon! Long before there ever was a tabernacle or a temple, the patriarchs had God as their refuge and strength, their sanctuary, and their abiding place. Wherever Abraham pitched his tent, he also built an altar to the Lord, because he knew that God was with him (Gen. 12:8; 13:1–4, 18). The New Testament equivalent of this experience is to abide in Christ (John 15:1–10).
His second promise is “I will even gather you” (Ezek. 11:17). A remnant of Jews would one day return to the land and rebuild the temple. No matter where the Jews had been scattered, the Lord would find them and bring them home. This promise goes far beyond the restoration after the Captivity, for the Lord has promised that in the end times He will gather His people back to their land (28:25–26; 34:11–16; 36:24–38; 37:11–28; Isa. 11:11–16; Jer. 24:4–7). His third promise is, “I will give you the land of Israel” (Ezek. 11:17). Since God had already given this land to Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 12:7; 13:14–17; 15:7), nobody else could successfully lay claim to it. When the exiles returned to their land, they would be cured of idolatry and would remove all the pagan worship.
The promises in Ezekiel 11:19–21 go beyond the return of the Jewish exiles after the Babylonian Captivity, for Scripture records no evidence of this kind of spiritual renewal in the post-exilic period. In fact, the account given in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Malachi is just the opposite. The promises apply to the end times when God’s people Israel will be regathered to their land, will repent of their sins and trust their Messiah (Zech. 12–14), and welcome Him as their King. They will experience a spiritual regeneration, a new birth.
However, those who will not believe will be judged (Ezek. 11:21). Later in this book, Ezekiel will describe in greater detail the glorious blessings God has prepared for the Jewish nation (chaps. 33–48). Jeremiah had also announced a “New Covenant” for the people of Israel (Jer. 31:33; 32:38–39), a covenant not written on stones but engraved on the human mind and heart; and Christian believers today share in that covenant (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 9–10).